T-REX - Biography

T.RexBefore finding teenybopper adulation as a 1970s pop group T. Rex began life as Tyrannosaurus Rex, darlings of the hippy/lighter weight end of the UK Underground scene in 1960s London. The band was founded by Marc Bolan in 1967 and gave one performance as a five piece rock band at The Roundhouse before immediately breaking up in disarray. Bolan retained the services of Steve Peregrin Took and the duo began producing eccentric pastoral and folk tinged ditties steeped in Tolkienian mythology, with spiritual homages to Gene Vincent thrown into the whimsical mix for good measure.

The combination of Bolan's guitar and cat-like wail with Steve Took's bongos and assorted percussion (which often included children's instruments such as the Pixiephone) gained them a devoted following on a thriving underground scene that included the Incredible String Band and DJ John Peel, who befriended them and ferried them to and from gigs in his mini and eventually read stories written by Bolan on two of their albums. Another key pairing was with the record producer Tony Visconti who went on to produce all of their albums well into their second phase.

As Tyrannosaurus Rex Bolan and Took recorded the albums

  • MY PEOPLE WERE FAIR AND HAD SKY IN THEIR HAIR ... BUT NOW THEY'RE CONTENT TO WEAR STARS ON *THEIR BROWS 7/7/68.

  • Credits:

  • Marc Bolan Vocals, Acoustic guitar.

  • Steve Peregrin Took backing vocals, drums, pixiephone, percussion.

  • John Peel story reader.

  • Best Chart Position: #15.

  • PROPHETS, SEERS AND SAGES, THE ANGELS OF THE AGES 14/10/68.

  • Credits:

  • Marc Bolan Vocals, guitar.

  • Steve Peregrin Took bongos, African drums, kazoo, pixiephone, Chinese gong.

  • UNICORN 18/5/69.

  • Credits:

  • Marc Bolan Vocals, guitar.

  • Steve Peregrin Took bongos, African drums, kazoo, pixiephone, Chinese gong.

  • Best Chart Position: #12.

 

 

Singles

  • Debora/Child Star 19/4/68.

  • Best Chart Position: #34 ~ Weeks in Chart: 7.

  • One Inch Rock/Salamanda Palaganda 23/8/68.

  • Best Chart Position: #28 ~ Weeks in Chart: 7.

  • Pewter Suitor/Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles 14/1/69.

  • King of the Rumbling Spires/Do You Remember? 25/7/69

  • Best Chart Position: #44 ~ Weeks in Chart: 1.

The reverse cover of Unicorn follows a convention begun by Dylan with Bringing It All Back Home: the pair are pictured lurking in a Bayswater flat surrounded by influences LPs, books and objets d'art. These range from the modish to the obscure Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, The Bible, works of William Blake, a Muddy Waters LP, tabla drums and toy cymbals etc. The photo sums up Bolan's earnest playfulness and the duo's position as both typical within their scene and a unique proposition, and the music on Unicorn, with its melancholic grandeur, marks the high water mark for pixie-rock.

By 1969 there was a clear rift between the two halves of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Bolan and his girlfriend June Child (ex-girlfriend of Syd Barrett) were living a quiet life, while Took was fully embracing the anti-commercial/community spirited/drug taking ethics of the UK Underground scene centred around Ladbroke Grove. Took was also attracted to the most anarchistic elements such as Mick Farren/Deviants and members of the Pink Fairies Rock 'n' Roll and Drinking Club.

By now Took was writing his own songs and wanted the duo to perform some of them. Bolan, seeing himself as the creative force behind the duo refused. Probably the final straw for Bolan was when Took 'donated' two songs to Twink's Think Pink album and ignored warnings by the management to stop seeing members of the UK Underground.

Bolan sacked Took after Unicorn, prior to their first ever US tour, although Took was contractually obliged to go through with the tour. The tour was poorly promoted and planned and because the acoustic duo were billed along side loud electric acts Took commented later that the audience often didn't even notice they'd started so in an Iggy Pop manner he stripped to the waist and whipped himself.

Final Tyrannosaurus Rex Album

As soon as he returned to the UK Bolan replaced Took with bongo player Mickey Finn which genuinely was his real name. The final album under the name Tyrannosaurus Rex was A Beard Of Stars (1970) featured Mickey Finn who would remain with Bolan until 1975. Finn had no song writing aspirations.

As well as progressively shorter titles, the albums show increasing production values, more accessible song writing from Bolan and experimentation with electric guitars and a rock sound. The breakthrough with this was in King of the Rumbling Spires (recorded with Steve Took) which used a full rock band and which, despite the lyrical content, is a long way removed from the first couple of albums. This purple patch also saw the publication of The Warlock of Love, Bolan's book of poems, derided by critics but which nevertheless became the best-selling poetry book of its time.

T.Rex

The next album, entitled simply T. Rex continued the process of simplification by shortening the name and completed the move to electric guitars. (Legend has it the Tony Visconti got fed up with writing the name out in full on studio chitties and tapes and began to abbreviate it. When Bolan first noticed he was furious, but later claimed it was his idea.) The sound was altogether poppier and the first single, Ride a White Swan, provided the first hit reaching #2 in the UK chart in late 1970.

Glam Rock is Born

Ride a White Swan was quickly followed with a second, Hot Love. A band was hastily formed and began to tour to increasing audiences, with teenage girls (teeny boppers) replacing the hippies of old. Chelita Secunda (wife of Tony Secunda manager to The Move and for a brief period T.Rex) added two spots of glitter under the eyes of Bolan and Glam rock was born. It would sweep the United Kingdom and many parts of Europe during 1971/1972 and result in various artists of differing merits.

The second T.Rex album, Electric Warrior is considered by many to be their best and brought great success. The music press at the time coined the term 'T.Rextasy' to describe the audience reaction at their performances. A couple of years of regular chart success followed, with hit singles such as Metal Guru and Telegram Sam pouring off what came to resemble a production line.

It was the "Electric Warrior" album that produced T.Rex' best-known hit, "Get It On", which hit number one on the British charts, while becoming a Top Ten hit in the U.S., where the song was retitled "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" (to avoid confusion with another song called "Get It On", released the same year of 1971 by the group Chase).

What comes after Up?

Down - Original members of the band, began to leave in 1973, alienated by Bolan's increasingly egotistical behaviour which resulted in part from the absence of Bolan's regulating factor (his wife June Bolan) from 1973 onwards when he began his relationship with Gloria Jones. Finn left in the band in 1975. The second bongo player to be sacked by Bolan. Sadly, too much money, success, Cocaine and Brandy resulted in Bolan, always the fantasist with a Napoleon complex becoming more Narcissistic and Egotistical. His success made him isolated from the 'real world' and high UK Tax rates drove him and many other successful musicians into exile. No longer a vegetarian Bolan piled on the weight on a diet of hamburgers and alcohol (His 'Fat-Elvis phase'). Many of those who had suffered at the hands of his hard-nosed drive to become a Star took the opportunity for revenge and he was ridiculed in the Music Press.

What comes after Bottom?

Level-headedness? - By 1977 Bolan had hit rock bottom, much of his wealth had gone and he managed to lose weight. This is no doubt largely due to the birth of his only child - a son Rolan Bolan in September 1975. In March 1977 he performed what would be his final tour with the Punk Rock band The Damned as support.

In September 1977 he recorded six programmes for Granada Television to be screened during the Children's Tea-Time slot. Bolan looked fit although perhaps a little too thin and mimed through a number of old T.Rex songs with a group of disinterested session musicians as T.Rex. His links were delivered in exquisite Campness and an example was his introduction for the Punk Rock band Generation X where he said the lead singer was supposed to be as "pretty as me" (as he finished delivering this line he sniffed a Carnation he had been delicately holding).

 

The day a simple tree became Bolan's Rock Shrine

Bolan was talking of getting back to his roots and performing with his two original partners Mickey Finn and Steve Took. This was not to be because he died when the car (a Mini) driven by his girlfriend hit a tree in Barnes, South West London, less than a Mile from his home in Richmond a few minutes before 5:00 am on September 16, 1977.

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